Defrosting Some .30-30 Ammo: Bonded Bullets

In my post “.30-30 Ammo On Ice,” written in the dead of winter, I pined for the coming of spring and good shooting weather. That has now come to pass and I am able to report on the results of testing some of the .30-30 factory ammo mentioned in that post. Actually, there was a lot of different ammo cited in that post, too much for one shooting session or one report, so I am going to present the results in several chapters.

Left: Winchester Power Max 150; Right: Federal Fusion 150

This first installment will report on the Winchester “Power Max” Bonded 150-grain load and the Federal “Fusion” 150-grain bonded load. As reported earlier, the idea of  a bonded core bullet is to keep jacket and core together as the bullet penetrates flesh and bone. When jacket and core separate, the lead core breaks up and penetration stops, resulting in wounded but often lost game. Hence, the bonded core seems like a good idea, especially for the bullets in the 150-gr category*.  Winchester’s offering has a hollow point, and they advertise it as a “Protected Hollow Point.” It is a round nose in profile.  The Federal round has a straighter ogive and a fairly large, flat, lead point. Both loads profess standard 150-gr muzzle velocity (2390 fps), but the Federal claims slightly better down-range retention of velocity. The different companies making bonded bullets use different methods for bonding but they will not be discussed here. You can find info on the web. I would rather get to the shooting.

At the Range

I modified my testing procedure somewhat from previous practice. I used three-shot groups, rather than my usual four, in the interest of economy, saving time, and minimizing problems due to barrel heating in the good ‘ol summertime. I think this should be OK, because we are talking about hunting ammo here, and how your first few shots come out usually tells the tale in a hunting situation. All test firing was at a distance of fifty yards, a convenient distance for managing targets and minimizing problems due to weather, wind, and different loads shooting to different points of impact. Two rifles were used for the testing. My very reliable and accurate Remington Model 788, equipped with a Leupold Vari-X III 4 – 14x scope, was counted on to give a good idea of the accuracy level, and a Winchester Model 94 was used to represent the light hunting arm. My 94’s 24-inch barrel gave a check on factory-reported velocities, and the Williams FP aperture sight gave enough precision for accuracy estimation.

Velocity Data (Average velocity AV; Extreme Spread ES; Standard Deviation SD)

Winchester Power Max 150 grain

     Remington 788 (22”)  AV  2304 fps; Es  48 fps; SD 19 fps.

     Winchester 94 (24”) AV  2392;  ES 28 fps;  SD 14 fps.

Federal Fusion 150 grain

     Remington 788 (22”)  AV 2364 fps;  ES  47 fps;  SD  19 fps.

     Winchester 94 (24”)  AV 2450 fps;  ES  49 fps;  SD  17 fps.

The velocities of both loads were very uniform in both guns. The Winchester Power Max delivered speed very close to published values for conventional 150-grain loads, which are normally quoted at 2390 fps from a 24” barrel. The Federal Fusion was a bit hotter, breaking 2400 fps in the 24” Winchester 94.  This is very strong performance for a 150-grain .30-30 load.


Groups with Remington 788: Top, Winchester Power Max; Bottom, Federal Fusion

The first picture shows the first four groups fired with the Remington 788 (with Leupold Vari-X III 4-14X scope) for the two loads. Groups for the two are very good and comparable in size.  The Winchester Power Max gave the smallest group but had a bit more tendency to give two-and-a-flyer. I added two more groups for each on a second trip to the range, for a total of 6 groups with each, with the following overall results:

Rem 788:  Winchester Power Max Average group size:  .75”

                    Federal Fusion Average Group Size:   .55”

These are the actual group measurements at 50 yards, so we are seeing here accuracy in the range of 1.0 to 1.5 Minutes of angle (MOA) for this factory stuff in a good rifle.  No deer safe within effective range of this ammo.

The next pic shows two groups for the Winchester Power Max fired with the Winchester Model 94. The two-and-a-flyer performance really shows up here, and it may be as much the gun as the load. The measurements are pretty decent. This rifle has typically given groups in the range 2 – 3 MOA with good ammo in the past. The Winnie did not like the Federal Fusion quite as well.  Two groups averaged 3.1 MOA.

The Fired Cases

There is nothing unusual to report about the appearance of the fired cases. Measurement showed that the case web diameter expanded on firing by .0026”.  This is indicative of normal pressure for the .30-30. The case shoulder of both rounds moved forward in the amount of .032”. Again, this is normal. Factory .30-30 is always a bit short in the shoulder, which blows forward on firing to fill the chamber. Thus, this measurement depends on the chamber of the particular rifle used for firing. If headspace is correct, the case does not lengthen ahead of the web. After firing, the case will fit your chamber perfectly, and, if reloaded with neck sizing only, will give very good results, in the same gun, of course.

The weight of one fired brass case:  Winchester, 135 grains;  Federal, 138 grains. I will keep track of the weights of fired cases as we test ammo in this series as a check on the quality of the brass.

Stay Tuned

Hope you like this. More results will be coming soon as more factory ammo is thawed out.  Gotta get to the range now.


*On the other hand, you might want to ask if core separation was ever a problem at .30-30 velocities with the conventional bullets used in that cartridge for eons. It may be that the bonded bullet idea is more valuable in, say, high-velocity rounds like the .270 Winchester.  Just had to mention this.

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